Sheriff warns against driving and texting

Drivers: Put that cellphone down! April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., who said he plans to ramp up enforcement and pose heavy fines on texting and driving violators. The county is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as part of a national campaign called “Put the Phone Away or Pay.” Law enforcement agencies across New York State will conduct enhanced enforcement of texting and distracted-driving laws.

According to NHTSA, nearly 32,483 people died in distraction-affected crashes from 2011 to 2020. In 2022, NHTSA reported vehicle crashes involving distracted driving were linked to 3,308 deaths and an additional 289,310 injuries.

“Distracted driving is a leading cause of vehicle crashes on our county’s roads, and most of this distraction is attributed to texting while driving,” Sheriff Toulon said in a release. 

“Beginning this week, our Deputy Sheriffs will be further increasing efforts to stop drivers from distracted driving. If you text and drive in Suffolk County, we will pull you over and you will be fined,” the release said. 

The fine for distracted  driving  is also steep, the sheriff noted.  

A first-time violation is a traffic infraction, carrying a fine of  $50 to $200 as well as 5 points on your license. 

Drivers convicted of  a second violation within 18 months, will be fined  between $50 and $250, plus  5 points. Upon conviction for a third violation, also within an 18-month period, the fine ranges from $50 to $450 dollars as well as 5 points.

Sheriff Toulon urged people who receive a call or text while driving to pull off the road and park in a safe location, or to have a passenger to be a “designated texter” and allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.